Questions -- such as would Worthington parents accept a change in grade configuration or give up neighborhood schools for more creative boundaries -- are expected to be asked at upcoming community meetings, as scenarios to solve facility problems develop.
DeJong-Richter, the consulting firm guiding Worthington City Schools' facility planning, is getting down to the nitty-gritty in crafting scenarios to tackle issues such as crowded elementary schools and aging buildings.
One of the scenarios discussed in a January task force meeting was changing to a kindergarten-through fifth-grade configuration for elementary schools, instead of K-6, and housing sixth-through eighth-graders in middle schools, instead of seventh and eighth.
Superintendent Trent Bowers urged residents to consider attending one of two public meetings to give input.
The first meeting is at 6:30 p.m. March 14 at Thomas Worthington High School, 300 W. Dublin Granville Road. The second is at 6:30 p.m. March 15 at Worthington Kilbourne High School, 1499 Hard Road.
"We have two main issues we need to solve -- aging facilities and enrollment capacity," Bowers said.
He said the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission evaluated all of Worthington's school buildings in 2015 and reported that seven schools were actually candidates for replacement, based on their statewide standard.
In addition, since 2012, the student population in Worthington's schools has increased by 877 students.
"According to DeJong-Richter, moderate projections are showing that we will likely add another 800 students over the next five years," Bowers said.
Tracy Richter, chief executive officer with the firm, said the last task force meetings included "two days of pretty-intense discussion."
"We discussed things like balancing high school enrollment and possible boundary changes, but we also realized that nothing will fit perfectly together," he said. "The scenarios have to address aging facilities and they have to deal with enrollment growth. The caution is not to overbuild, even though you are on this uptick of growth, because you will eventually see some downtrends."
Even though the district had about the same enrollment as today nearly 20 years ago, the district did not offer all-day kindergarten nor have as many students with special education needs, Bowers said.
"These services take considerably more classroom space than what was allocated for such programs two decades ago," he said. "Also programs now housed in the Perry building -- Rockbridge Academy, Phoenix Middle School and Worthington Academy -- have become important, sought-after educational options for students across the community."
All the district's elementary school buildings are operating at full capacity, and some are above, Bowers said.
"As we continue to grow, we need to create new capacity to handle the projected enrollment and to be able to continue operating the programs we value," he said. "Doing nothing is not an option."
He said there are many ways the district's challenges could be solved.
"Potential solutions include the replacement, renovation or expansion of schools, changing grade configurations, redrawing attendance lines or changing feeder patterns from elementary to middle to high school," he said.
"On March 14 and 15 we will explain four or five draft scenarios that have been developed," he said. "We will seek community feedback on each scenario and attempt to gauge the community's tolerance for the potential change."
He said the community feedback would be used to help develop a plan that is expected to be presented to Worthington's school board members at the end of May or in early June.